Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a possible Republican presidential candidate in 2012, said last night that President Barack Obama is vulnerable politically because of his job performance and his core values.
The Georgia Republican said Obama has to bear some responsibility for a national unemployment rate of 9 percent and can no longer blame the poor economy on former President George W. Bush. He also said the Hawaii-born president has accepted a European model of governing.
"This is a country which believes deeply in our creator, it believes deeply in the work ethic, it believes deeply in personal freedom," Gingrich told reporters before speaking at the Hawaii Republican Party’s Lincoln Day dinner at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Waikiki. "And to the degree that he has accepted a kind of European model, where power comes from government, where the bureaucrats are decisive, where the rest of us ought to let Washington tell us what to do, I think he has a values challenge as well as a performance challenge."
Gingrich said he would decide by the end of the month or in early March whether to enter the Republican presidential primary. He is vacationing on the Big Island with his wife, Callista.
He said people in Hawaii should rightfully be proud of Obama, who was born in Honolulu and graduated from Punahou School. "I would say that this would be one of the last states to decide not to vote for his re-election," he said. "So I’m very conscious of that reality."
But he said Hawaii Republicans, a distinct minority in a state dominated by Democrats, have an opportunity to grow. He recalled how Republicans in Georgia were in the minority up until the past decade. The Georgia GOP now controls the state Legislature, the governor’s office, both U.S. Senate seats and eight of 13 U.S. House seats.
"My message is cheerful persistence," Gingrich said. "I think the message of freedom, the message of lower taxes — more take-home pay, more jobs — and the message of using science and technology to deliver government services at lower cost with greater satisfaction is a message that the Hawaii Republican Party can carry to every neighborhood, to every ethnic group, to every community."
Dylan Nonaka, executive director of the state GOP, said the dinner was an opportunity for local Republicans to hear from a potential presidential candidate.
"He’s somebody who has always had good ideas and has articulated the principles of the Republican Party well and put them into policy," Nonaka said. "So he’s the kind of guy who is a good example for any Republican anywhere in the country."
Nonaka said Gingrich is "definitely laying the groundwork, I think, and feeling out how viable a presidential campaign can be. He’s been talking to folks."